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Archive for the ‘Day Trips Around the UK’ Category

 I’ve been wanting to post this for quite a while, but its been kind of difficult because there is so much historical stuff I wanted to include in this post, and make sure I had my research correct.  So….here goes nothing.
Last saturday, a few friends and myself decided to take a day trip to Loch Ness through Haggis Adventures. While I spent 12 hours on a bus touring the upper parts of Scotland, it was a ton of fun! Here is the map of the route the tour followed: 

Map of Scotland

We met where the tour departed from at 7:45, which fortunately for me was only about a 10 minute walk from where I live on the Royal Mile.   We got on a bus that was very fancy, a mercedes complete with leather seats that reclined. Here is Matt (Tulane) and I on the bus:

Our tour guide ended up talking a lot about Edinburgh as we departed the city, and the most interesting thing I learned about was the levee.  When the levee was drained a few hundred years ago, they found over 100 female skeletons at the bottom.  Why? witches.   Just like we learned about in middle school, if a woman was suspected of being a witch in the medieval times, she was tied up and tossed into the river.  If she floated, she was then deemed a witch and suffered a horrible death.  The alternative, sinking, and ultimately drowning, means you werent a witch.  Then the townspeople would send a written apology to your family for wrongfully accusing the woman of being a witch.  Interesting stuff.

I just thought that the bus was going to take us to Loch Ness and back, but we ended up stopping at a bunch of different places, the first being Stirling.  After passing the place where Monty Python and the holy grail was filmed

we stopped to see Hamish, the higland cow (pronounced kew).

Hamish was quite the fellow, he liked to entertain the crowd with his lovely eating habits.  After our little stop in stirling, we continued our tour up into the highlands.  The roads were very narrow and windy, and I was a bit uneasy at times, but the scenery was gorgeous and it was absolutely beautiful.  We passed Glen Lyon, which is the longest Glen in Scotland. That is not why it is most famous though, it is probably more famous for the fact that Pontius Pilate was born there.  He had a Roman father and Scottish mother, was born in Scotland, and when he became an adult he decided to go and find his father. Lo and behold he ended up being the one approving the crucification of Jesus.

Our first stop in the highlands was Glencoe, a beautiful place to take pictures.   This is me with Kristina (Penn) and Becca (McGill):

Actually, some nasty historical stuff happened here in Glencoe.  In February of 1692 in the bitter cold, Captian Robert Campbell and 120 of his men attacked the MacDonald clan while they were sleeping in their houses in the middle of the night.  38 people were slaughtered in their homes and another 40 women and children died after exposure to the bitter cold.  To this very day, anyone with the last name Campbell is looked down upon in this northern area of Scotland, for this very low massacre.

We took a longer ride through the countryside, and heres a lovely video of the goregous scenery.

It is pretty cool, because there are a series of Lochs in Scotland that connect to each other, those of which run from the east coast to the west coast of Scotland.  It is possible to take a boat from the east to west coast.

Our next stop was in Loch Ness, about after 5 hours of driving. We got our picinic lunches (vegetable sandwich and a biscuit (thats scottish for cookie)).  We sat to picinic next to a beautiful canal. Then we had our boat tour around loch ness, which was really cool.  Loch ness is very cool itself; If you were to drain all of the lakes in Scotland, Whales and England, their combined volume wouldn’t even fill Loch Ness. It is over 1000 feet deep in the very middle, which is pretty crazy.  It’s also shaped like a bathub, so the dropoff is very close to the shore, which is pretty atypical of your standard lake.

I ended up talking to this guy on the boat, who does a lot of research with MIT and the whole Loch Ness monster stuff.  I didnt actually believe that there was such a thing as a Loch Ness monster, but I do now believe that there is some sort of creature that lives in there that is hard to know anything about. He showed us this picture on his phone that he took while he was kayaking on Loch Ness, and had it researched by NASA to see if the picture was genuine.  It was this large hump of a fleshy type creature that was suspected to range in about 15′ in length.  Apparently he was offered $20,000 for the picture, but he refused it.  I’m not sure how much of this mumbo jumbo i believe, but I do think there is some sort of creatures in there that is hard to learn about.  There is another creature carcass under the water that was discovered and studied, but due to the Scotland national preserve, they aren’t allowed to take it out of the Loch, which is silly to me. Talking to this guy was definitely well worth the price of the trip. Here is me and Kristina on the boat!

Unfortutely I didnt snag any pictures of Loch Ness itself, but I did get a nice picture of the boat.

After we got off the boat, the canal that I was talking about earlier was actually being used.  I was geeking out so  much it was so exciting.  I’ve never seen a canal working before, so this was definitely cool

On the way back to Edinburgh from Loch ness, we made a couple of more stops.  The first was at the Commando Memorial and the highest mountain in the UK, Ben Nevis.

The Commando Memorial was very moving, I really enjoy learning about historical things like this.   A lot of British soldiers go to the scottish higlands to train, and once upon their completion of this training, they recieve the green beret, which is the most prestigious honor a British soldier could get.

Here is the full story of the memorial

Sitting behind the memorial was Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain.  Didn’t seem too high for me, but then again I couldn’t see the top.
We stopped at one more place on the way back but I was so tired I sort of didnt pay attention to the tour guide.  One thing I do remember is talking about the Edinburgh Bridge.  This bridge, which is pictured below, was the inspiration for the Eiffle Tower structure.  How bout that, them Scots influence a lot of stuff 🙂

The Forth Bridge- courtesy of history-uk.com

Overall, the tour was fantastic, well worth the money, and I would recommend Haggis Adventures to anyone.  I think that it would’ve been better to do a longer (2-3 day tour or something) to see more of the sights, but I got to see so much in just one day.  Our tour guide talked a lot about the braveheart movies, and the actual people that the characters were based off, and he knew so much about the Scottish history.  I particularly enjoyed his take, because it seemed like he knew a lot about Engineering.

Next up- my weekend trip to Dublin! chao!

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So I had this whole post written about my first week of classes, and how ridiculously stressful this last week has been, but I decided to skip over all of that mumbo jumbo and just get to the good stuff.  So on Saturday there was another International Student Center trip to Lindisfarne, and Berwick upon Tweed. The day started out pretty poorly, we had to meet at the ISC at 8, and somehow I woke up at 7:47.  I managed to get there at 8:04, but the bus was an hour late, so it didnt even matter. It was particularly windy and cold that day, which kind of sucked, but we were happy to get on the bus.

Our first stop was Lindisfarne. This is a small island off the coast of the English/Scottish border, but *currently* it is considered a part of England. I guess which country it belongs to changes every once and a awhile.  So the population of this little island is 160, and there is no bridge to get to it.  During low tide, there is a little road that connects the island to the mainland, (and I’m using the term “road” loosely) and you can drive on and off the island.  However, if you miss this window, you could end up getting stuck there overnight.

We got there when it was low tide:

This is the outskirts of the Lindisfarne castle, one of the islands main attractions

I felt like by the time we drove to Lindisfarne, the temperature dropped by 20 degrees.  It felt like a chilly/windy fall day in Boston.  This would be a cool picture, if it werent for the silly tourists in the background…

The castle was pretty cool, it is much more like a castle than Edinburgh or St. Andrews Castles, there were actual bedrooms and living spaces and stuff, instead of a fort (Edinburgh) and ruins (St. Andrews)

This is the view of the center of town from the top of the castle:

as you can see, Lindisfarne is very rural. Those little white specks are sheep!  We got to go to a free Mead tasting, which was interesting. I dont know what I was expecting for  a taste, I didnt particularly love it, but I didnt hate it either:

After we had some good lunch and met a nice man from Wales, it was time to get back on the bus and head to Berwick Upon Tweed.  In the 30 minute bus ride, the weather managed to change from awful wind to mildly warm and sunny.  It was a nice change. Berwick Upon Tweed is one of the oldest walled cities in England, and was a very quaint town. The view from one of the hills was amazing.  The waves were crashing a lot, but it was hard to get a good picture.  The bridges to get into the town were beautiful.

This is one of my favorite pictures 🙂

It took us a LONG time to find the castle, which you can sort of see just behind this bridge on the right hand side. Its in ruins, and looks like it was very small.  We had to go on a trek through the wilderness just to find it.

After we walked around some more, some of us had to use the bathroom. We ended up finding a “public toilet” on the outskirts of town, and needless to say a lot of hilarity ensued.  Basically, it was like you were entering something on the starship enterprise.  This futuristic British woman barked commands at you the entire time, informing you of what the bathroom was doing.  It was giving instructions the entire time we were in there.  It also made a lot of noises like it was going to take you to another dimension or something, it sounded like there were a lot of hydraulics or pneumatics to open and close the doors.  Oh and I forgot to mention that it cost 50 pence. We definitely got our 50p worth of entertainment! lol. I think the entire town could hear us laughing.

I think its pretty cool that the International Student Center hosts trips every Saturday.  So far they’ve been 8 pounds, which is a pretty good deal in my opinion.  Its a great way to see the subtle beauty of Scotland/England, and each trip so far has been a lot of fun.  I’m not going on the trip this weekend, theres a lot of homework to be caught up on, and by the way, did I mention next weekend I’M GOING TO DUBLIN? We got flights for 40 pounds, RT, can’t beat that! 🙂

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Julia and I

St. Andrews is about a hour and a half drive through the Scottish countryside north of Edinburgh. We got on a bus and left at 9:30 in the morning, expecting to arrive around 11.  Well with tons of construction and traffic, we didn’t get there until 12, so we had only about 4 hours in the town.  For those of you who’ve been to California, I would compare St. Andrews to La Jolla. Lots of beauty, quaint, small town, lots of shops, and very touristy.  Of course the main attraction here is the most famous golf course in the world, and also the birthplace of golf, the St. Andrews Old Course.

We got off the bus and headed to the cathedral, or what was left of the cathedral.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I saw “Cathedral” and “castle” on the map, but I didn’t know that it would be in ruins! Goes to show my Scottish history knowledge… Anyways, surrounding what was left of the cathedral was a rather large cemetery, with the ocean on the eastern side. It was absolutely beautiful! The ruins were very cool.

What was left of the Cathedral, the eastern side

I believe I said "I feel like I'm in Harry Potter 4" While taking this picture. The graveyard scene anyone?

The views were incredible as usual, I was surprised to see people surfing!

We then walked over to the castle, which was again in ruins. But the views were beautiful and it was still a great historical adventure. We went down to these tunnels that were dug out by the prisoners, and had to climb through them.

Good thing I'm not claustraphobic!

From here we checked out St. Andrews University, which is Edinburgh’s rival, looked around it’s museum and then headed to the golf course. I was sort of giddy because I like to golf, so this was pretty exciting for me to see. The public can walk around certain areas of the course, so we checked out the British Golf Museum (and were excited to get free admission!) and then walked around the course a bit.

Holes #1 and 18

After the course, we went over to this little tea shop to get some lunch. I got a chocolate cake that was to die for, so yummy. Then we mosey’d our way back to where the bus was going to pick us up.  From there, we got to see a bride and groom taking pictures on their wedding day in the cathedral ruins.

Taking pictures of the bride and groom taking pictures

They had beautiful weather, too

We got back on our cramped little bus and headed back to Edinburgh. Fortunately this time the bus ride was much shorter. Saturday night was the fresher’s ball, which ended up being a blast. Everyone got fancied up, heres a pic of me with my new friends 🙂

Reba, Rebecca, Kristina, Me, Julia, Ellen and Sarah

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